The Trump administration’s controversial family separation policy at the US-Mexico border may have ended in 2018, but families and children across the US, Mexico, and Central America are still feeling its effects years later.
Over 1,000 families affected by the policy haven’t been unified, NBC News reported this week.
In 185 cases, the parents who were separated from their children and likely deported haven’t even been located, The Atlantic reports.
When Joe Biden took office, the president signed an executive order creating a taskforce to find and unite the more than 5,000 families separated under the Trump White House.
The previous administration did not keep records of which families were separated and where various members were sent, so the process often involves a painstaking search for any trace of the divided families. Many of the parents were deported before being unified with their children.
As of early August, Mr Biden’s Family Reunification Task Force announced it had reconnected 400 children with their parents, a milestone celebrated by advocates.
“We are thrilled for the hundreds of children who will finally be with their parents after all these years, but we are not even halfway through reuniting all the families that remain separated by the Trump administration,” Lee Gelernt, a lawyer for the ACLU representing separated families, told NBC. “And indeed, we still haven’t located nearly 200 families. I think the Biden administration would agree that there’s a lot of work yet to be done.”
The Independent has contacted the Border Patrol for comment.
In July, four parents who were forcibly separated from their families in Arizona sued the federal government, arguing they were given “no notice, no information, and no plan for reunification.
According to the lawsuit, one Guatemalan parent, identified as MSE in the complaint, came to the US through Yuma, seeking asylum. They turned themselves into Border Patrol agents, who forcibly separated her from her 14-year-old son for weeks.
The boy said the incident deeply traumatised him.
“I’m big now so I try to be strong. But I still feel broken inside,” the teen, identified as JM in the suit, said in court documents.
“We are taking the Biden administration to court to make sure that these families get the compensation they deserve for the trauma inflicted upon them by the federal government,” Tami Goodlette, director of litigation at RAICES, said in a statement to The Arizona Republic. “Zero Tolerance was an intentional act of abuse, and it is the current administration’s responsibility to rectify the ongoing harms caused to these families.”
In 2021, the Biden administration walked away from negotiations around financial settlements for separated families, and has defended family separations as lawful in court earlier this year.
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